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January 22nd, 2009


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06:15 pm - Reading list
There were several novels on that list that I feel I ought to read. I'll see how many of these I can track down and read this year, what do you think? Any not to bother with?

Algis Budrys : Rogue Moon
Mikhail Bulgakov : The Master and Margarita
Michael Chabon : The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
GK Chesterton : The Man Who Was Thursday
Samuel R. Delaney : The Einstein Intersection Nova and/or Dhalgren
Thomas M. Disch : Camp Concentration
Umberto Eco : Foucault's Pendulum
Russell Hoban : Riddley Walker
Henry James : The Turn of the Screw
Gwyneth Jones : Bold as Love
Patrick McCabe : The Butcher Boy
Cormac McCarthy : The Road
Haruki Murakami : The Wind-up Bird Chronicle
John Cowper Powys : A Glastonbury Romance
Robert Louis Stevenson : The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Rupert Thomson : The Insult
Gene Wolfe : The Book of the New Sun
Angus Wilson : The Old Men at the Zoo

And here are some that I don't really know anything about. I mean, I've heard of Auster and Calvino and Ramsey Campbell of course, but I don't know those books. The others I haven't even heard of the author. Any thoughts on any of these?

Paul Auster : In the Country of Last Things
William Beckford : Vathek
Charles Brockden Brown : Wieland
Italo Calvino : The Baron in the Trees
Ramsey Campbell : The Influence
Michael G Coney : Hello Summer, Goodbye
Marie Darrieussecq : Pig Tales
Jed Mercurio : Ascent
Andrew Miller : Ingenious Pain
Robert Walser : Institute Benjamenta

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:executrix
Date:January 22nd, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
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I adore The Man Who Was Thursday!

Ingenious Pain reminded me of Incident at the Fingerpost but I liked Fingerpost better (...even though I really don't like his detective stories at all...)
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From:several_bees
Date:January 22nd, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC)
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Seconding this: TMWWT is great.

I didn't like Riddley Walker but I have little patience for books written in made-up languages. Foucault's Pendulum and The Master and Margarita were also not worth the bother for me. Turn of the Screw is interesting in that I didn't really like it, but then I had to write an essay about it and liked it more once I'd thought about it in that context; short, anyway. Though it's not fantasy or science fiction, and that isn't even my grumpy "stop making us respectable" brain talking.

Ingenious Pain is on the shelves of pretty much every charity shop in South London, which is usually but not always a bad sign.

So that's one "this is great" and a whole pile of stuff I haven't read, a few I'm indifferent to, and another pile of stuff I didn't like. I think my tastes and the listmakers' probably don't get on very well, though I should really look through the whole list instead of just skimming.
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From:several_bees
Date:January 22nd, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
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I've gone through the whole list now, and gosh.

I've read [at least a few chapters of] 70 of the books. Of those, I really really liked five; quite liked another 15 or so; I disliked the rest and stopped reading most of them about a third of the way in. I do abandon books more willingly than most people, but not 70% of them!

There's no real point quibbling with the individual choices, I suppose (though Ballard as the only writer who gets 3 slots is a bit of a hilariously Guardian choice). Or in arguing about whether it's useful to define work as science fiction or fantasy when it was created in a world in which they didn't exist as genres. Or what they're doing including books in which literally nothing that is not basically realist happens. Or whether they should just have stayed away from translations if they're going to include so few (so 130-odd of the 150 best science fiction and fantasy novels ever were written in English? Now there's a coincidence).

This is either the most infuriating list of this type I've seen, or I'm in a very irritable mood tonight.
[User Picture]
From:several_bees
Date:January 22nd, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
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(Er, which isn't to suggest that anyone else is WRONG for finding it useful, obviously. And it's widely established that all of these lists infuriate everyone anway.)
[User Picture]
From:liliha
Date:January 22nd, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
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I read Calvino's Baron in the Trees several years ago and thought it was lovely. I have some other Calvino sitting unread on my shelf. I think it's best characterized as magical realism, if I understand the genre correctly.
From:cdybedahl
Date:January 22nd, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
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Calvino was a great writer, with a fantastic imagination. It's a bit odd that they chose Baron in the Trees without mentioning the two other pieces of the triptych, The Cloven Viscount and The Nonexistent Knight.

Although if I were to recommend one particular Calvino book to start with, it'd definitely be If On A WInter's Night A Traveller, which is an absolutely amazing book. Or meta-book. Or a set of fragments of books that might have been. Or something like that.
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From:missfairchild
Date:January 22nd, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
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I thought The Road was the most searing and evocative book I've read for many years. It's by no means an easy read - in terms of its subject and imagery - but I have found it to be unforgettable.
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From:altariel
Date:January 22nd, 2009 08:01 pm (UTC)
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I think Riddley Walker is one of the best books I've ever read. But I thought Foucault's Pendulum was unreadable.

The Turn of the Screw is very short, if that helps :-)

The Master and Margarita is brilliant.
[User Picture]
From:ninebelow
Date:January 22nd, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC)
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These are great:

Algis Budrys : Rogue Moon
GK Chesterton : The Man Who Was Thursday

These are good:

Jed Mercurio : Ascent
Michael Chabon : The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Cormac McCarthy : The Road
Haruki Murakami : The Wind-up Bird Chronicle
Rupert Thomson : The Insult

These are okay:

Thomas M. Disch : Camp Concentration
Umberto Eco : Foucault's Pendulum
Gene Wolfe : The Book of the New Sun

The Insult is one of my least favourite Thomson, I would suggest Dreams Of Leaving or The Five Gates Of Hell instead.
[User Picture]
From:iainjcoleman
Date:January 22nd, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
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Foucault's Pendulum is great. Some of the middle section can be a bit longer than it needs to be, but it's all worth it for the resolution. Recommended.

Also, Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde. It's great, it's a classic, it's massively influential, it's short, and it's free on the web. Seriously, what more do you want?
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From:dfordoom
Date:January 22nd, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
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You must read Calvino.

I recommend Foucault's Pendulum to everyone, and everyone hates it. But I'll recommend it anyway. Riddley Walker is OK, but Hoban has written much better thins, such as The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz. The Turn of the Screw is fantastic. Vathek is another one that I love and everybody else hates. Orientalist fantasy gothic, and totally OTT.

Ramsey Campbell is simply awful.
From:cdybedahl
Date:January 22nd, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
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Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun is one I'd consider a must-read. It's certainly not to everybody's taste, but it's a very strong candidate for the title of best-written SF work ever. For me, it's one of the books I re-read every couple of years, and usually turn a distinct shade of green in sheer envy at the level of writing skill.

[User Picture]
From:vilakins
Date:January 22nd, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
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The Master and Margarita is one of my favourite novels! It's witty, satirical, moving, and utterly fascinating, and also very hard to sum up. Exhilarating?
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From:kalypso_v
Date:January 22nd, 2009 10:46 pm (UTC)
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The only one of those I've read is Foucault's Pendulum, which isn't as well constructed as The Name of the Rose - there's a draggy bit where he tries to work in more conspiracy theories than he needs to make the point - but I still enjoyed. Eco has the rare knack of writing about making love so that I enjoy it. Also, you need to read at least the opening sections so you can smile knowingly whenever anyone mentions Templars.

Jed Mercurio wrote the TV series Cardiac Arrest, if I recall correctly.
[User Picture]
From:gfk88
Date:January 23rd, 2009 08:38 am (UTC)
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I couldn't make head nor tail of Foucault's Pendulum, but I hardly think you should let that put you off.
[User Picture]
From:emeraldsedai
Date:January 24th, 2009 05:14 am (UTC)
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Two of my favorite difficult novels are on your list, and right in a row: Riddley Walker and Foucault's Pendulum. I'm a terrible reader--hardly ever touch serious literature--but I've re-read each of those a couple of times.

I have no way of knowing if either of them really holds up beyond that sort of university-student sensibility that goes in awe of intellectual games. An advance review printed on the cover of my first (American) edition of Riddley Walker says "...attempts the impossible, and achieves it"> and I kind of agree.

ETA: What these two novels have in common for me is a wonderful labyrinthine quality that actually leads to, in each case, a satisfying center.

Edited at 2009-01-24 05:14 am (UTC)

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